Photos and videos emerging from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas have become increasingly hard to verify due to widespread misinformation campaigns and so-called “deep fakes” spreading online, the head of CBS News said on Thursday.
Speaking at the Axios BFD conference, CBS News CEO Wendy McMahon said around 10 percent of the thousands of videos, photos and other materials reviewed by journalists at her organization can reliably be used on-air and online, a problem other news organizations are almost certainly grappling with as well.
“There are many reasons why [they are not reliable], but some of those reasons are directly tied to misinformation,” McMahon told an Axios business reporter at the conference.
McMahon said her newsroom is scrutinizing videos carefully, to include using artificial intelligence to help sift through some of the finer points of the material. Still, widespread misinformation campaigns on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and other places has made the job even more difficult.
“I’m a highly competitive person, but it is my sincere hope that every newsroom is having the same conversations and putting those same protections in place,” McMahon said.
Militants from Hamas crossed over the Gaza border into Israel on Saturday, carrying out an hours-long campaign of terror that left hundreds of Israeli civilians dead and over 1,000 more injured.
The attacks triggered a swift response from Israel, which has retaliated by carrying out targeted bombings and severing lines to critical resources like electricity, water and fuel.
Both sides are also using misinformation to bolster their positions. Within days of the attack, Israeli media reported unsubstantiated claims that dozens of infants were beheaded by militants — something President Biden repeated in a speech on Wednesday, only for White House officials to walk back his comments.
Pressed by reporters for confirmation, Israeli defense officials affirmed infants were among the dead in the terrorist attacks committed over the weekend, but said reports of infants being beheaded were “unconfirmed.”
On the other side, leaders at Hamas wrongly claimed they did not kidnap or kill women or children during their attacks. Videos circulated on X, Facebook and elsewhere proved otherwise, and photos released by the Israel prime minister’s office on Thursday showed the corpses of infants who were clearly tortured.
McMahon said the problem of misinformation spreading on the web is likely to get worse before it gets better.
“The reality is that there will be an influx of deepfakes and misinformation flowing into our newsrooms at a scale, at a speed, at a level of sophistication that will be staggering,” McMahon proffered.